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New gardeners usually begin by working with annuals. Then, they move to perennials and finally re-discover the beauty and suitability of annuals in their perennial beds. Beautiful plant combinations should be applauded no matter what their growth habit.

In my own garden, I have typically avoided using annuals and relied on perennial plants to give me a season long display of colour and interest. Last summer, the intense heat and drought forced many of my perennials into early flower, destroyed many of the sensitive plants and left my garden looking somewhat spent by mid-summer. Since then, I have realized that annuals have a very important place, even in a naturalized garden such as mine.

Annuals do an excellent job of bridging the 'gap of loveliness' which often occurs in perennial beds. They offer guaranteed colour all season long and are able to withstand the hotter summers we have been experiencing lately. Annuals are native in southern climates and thrive under hot summer conditions.

Inadvertenly, I have always relied heavily on annuals, or plants which seed themselves annually, to keep the gardens in flower. Wildflowers such as the ox-eye daisy, buttercups, mallow and cosmos, to name just a few, seed themselves readily in and amongst the perennials.

Cleome, snapdragons and pansies will also pop up in undisturbed portions of the garden.....more correctly in the areas I haven't had the time to get around to weed yet! However they get there, they are a welcome sight and form some magnificent plant compositions.

Along with the annuals which sow themselves in the garden, there is a vast selection of unique annuals available in the garden centre every spring. New varieties are introduced every year offering bigger blooms, brighter colours, taller growth habits, variegated foliage and the list goes on. These annuals are often destined for containers, window boxes or annual beds, but they can also be valuable components of the perennial beds.

From time to time, perennials can have a bad year and die back or become diseased. They can also grow beyond their allotted space and need to be divided. Whatever the circumstances, there will be a gap in the bed and this gives the opportunity to experiment with annual/perennial combinations.

The new ageratum 'Blue Horizon' is a tall version of the shade loving dwarf blue. It forms a wonderful partnership with yellow day lilies. It can also be planted amongst a grouping of white perennials to offer a season-long blue contrast to the seasonal whites such as Candytuft, Baby's Breath, White Lilies or White Foxglove.

The sweet potato vine will twine its way delicately through Artemisia to add an extra splash to an over-abundance of grey foliage.

Nasturtiums are always an excellent addition for the edges of beds or pathways. They will gradually spill over the defined edges and give a natural appeal to the garden. They can also be extremely prolific producers of edible flowers and pepper flavoured flower buds.

Zinnias, snapdragons and asters are all available in multi-colours and are ideal inclusions in the "polychromatic" or carnival-like garden.

Summer flowering bulbs, or those which need to be overwintered indoors, are other excellent companions in the perennial garden. Whether these are placed outdoors in pots and allowed to mingle with the foliage of other plants or planted in the soil, they will add some surprising and unique attributes to the garden.

Dahlias are almost too good to be true when you see a well grown specimen. It seems impossible that one plant could have the attributes of vibrant colour, deep-green waxy leaves and tall growth habit.

Canna lilies are unique in their class and blend perfectly with ornamental grasses; Calamagrostis can be used for a taller backdrop and Fountain grass as a shorter surround.

The important thing to think about when planning your garden is to feel free to experiment with all sorts of plant combinations. In the short growing season we have, we may as well pack it with as much variety as we can and some remarkable compositions will be the result.

Daisy Moore, 1999.




Other summer garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Extreme Conditions
Growing Roses
Summer Lawn Care
Propogation by Cuttings
Sources of Native Plants
Making Sense of Fertilizer Labels
Annual/Perennial Combinations
Climbing Plants
The Dry Garden
Ornamental Grasses
Chooosing A Good Gardening Book
Companion Planting
Preparing the Compost for Fall Use
Getting the Most out of your Vegetable Garden
Repairing Lawns From Summer Stress
All About Grubs
All About Onions
Useful Herbs for the Home Garden
Screens and Hedges


Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005